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Hotel Capo d'Africa, Rome
Review, history, photos and design of the four-star hotel
Article added on May 2, 2007

The history
The Italian capital is full of hotels. Unfortunately, too many of them are in a poor, run-down state. Hotel Capo d'Africa is one of the really recommendable four-star hotels, situated in the antique quarter Capitis Africae in the heart of what later became medieval Rome.

The name Caput Africae stems from the personified image of Rome's African province that adorned the street of the same name in ancient times. The area housed important structures providing services for the circus games (Armamentaria, Saniarum, Spoliarum and Ludus Matutinus), because the Colosseum is only five walking minutes away. In addition, Capitis Africae housed several barracks built in the 2nd century AD, including two for the mounted imperial guard (equites singulars) and one for special detachments of provincial troops, as well as the headquarters of the 5th cohort of vigiles.

In Roman times, the Campo d'Africa was presumably inhabited by Roman citizens from the African provinces as well as by slaves from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, who had to fight in the Colosseum. The barracks of the gladiators (Ludi), the Arsenalia and the Lupanari with the wild animals gave the area a special flavor.

The name Colosseum (in Italian Colosseo or Coliseo) was an invention of the Middle Ages. In Roman times, the greatest amphitheatre not only of Rome, but of the entire antique world, was known as Amphitheatrum Flavium.

The name Colosseum stems from the 35 meters high colossal statue depicting the insane, megalomaniacal Emperor Nero, which was put there in the 2nd century AD, but has not survived. Until the year 403 AD, gladiators fought and, until 523 AD, animal hunts were organized in the Colosseum, which hosted some 40,000 to 70,000 people, according to varying estimates.

The building of Hotel Capo d'Africa was erected around 1903 and first served as an orphanage. In the 1960s, it was transformed into the secondary school of the Celio quarter, which was built on the hill Monte Celio which was conquered by the Etruscan Celio Vibenna in the 6th century BC.

Monte Celia was one of the favorite residential areas of the noble Roman families. Today, the majestic Baths of Caracalla allow a glimpse of its past splendor. At the beginning of the 20th century, when the archeological area was created, the district became a delightful expanse of greenery situated between downtown Rome and the Via Appia, including the park of Villa Celimontana, gardens, ancient churches and Roman remains.

The hotel architecture and design

Only at the beginning of the current millennium - in the Eternal City of Rome you can count in this dimension - the building was transformed into a hotel.  The renovation has been carried out by the Roman company Appalti and the English interior designer Harry Gregory of Ara Design, who already worked together in Rome on Hotel dei Mellini and Visconti Palace Hotel.

Hotel Capo d'Africa offers up-to-date comfort in a cosmopolitan, “classic contemporary” look. Among the period features retained by the renovation is the original marble staircase.

The 64 double rooms on three floors vary both in size and in layout. The furniture was designed by ARA Design specially for Hotel Capo d'Africa. It is made from a light blondwood that complements the light and airy color scheme and the soft furnishings. The colors range from sandy beige to light green and ochre with more shots of color provided by the throw cushions on the bed. The carpet picks up the light colors of the fabrics. The beige leitmotif reappears in the bathroom marble, interrupted by the vanitory top of black granite. The halogen lighting system was custom-made for Hotel Capo d'Africa.

Contemporary artworks depicting areas of Rome were exclusively produced for the hotel by Italian artists and include the serial works Il giorno and La notte by Mariano Rossano, a native Roman.

The high head ends of the beds as well as the working tables are in beechwood. The night tables are a combination of wood and frost glass. The chairs are covered by red leather. The bathrooms come without tiles. Instead, a sandy paint was used which makes the linear, early 20th century stucco and the contemporary sink in light grey marble stand out.

Hotel Capo d'Africa also offers an elegant studio suite with a large terrace overlooking the apse of the church of SS. Quattro Coronati, which was built in the 4th century to commemorate four martyred Christian soldiers and is known for its delightful cloister and the chapel of San Silvestro with medieval frescos illustrating the conversion of Constantine.The Chiesa Santi Quattro Coronati is part of the UNESCO world heritage.

I was lucky to witness a concert in the Basilica delle Monache Agostiniane behind the hotel. Sixteen sisters, one of them playing the organ, impressed me. The next day, a bishop was celebrating High Mass. Unfortunately, he was a terrible speaker.

Back to the hotel: The public areas have the high ceilings typical for the early 20th century. Here too, the light beige Botticino marble is used extensively throughout on the floors, together with contrasting inlay details in black marble. The furniture is contemporary and eclectic, mixing streamlined seating groups with tight woven wicker tubs chairs in the lounge and leather upholstered tub chairs in the connected bar. The reception and the bar are a combination of opaque glass top surface and black marble with white veining. The lamps in glass and steel are by Artemide, the chairs and sofas in the lobby with rattan seatings by Antonio Bonacina and the flower arrangements as well as the creations made of corals and roots on the upper floors are by Dea Flora. The palette for this public area is light and fresh with colors including pale mauve, green, beige and a shot of orange used for the various upholstery items.

The highlight is the splendid, large summer terrace at the top with some 200m2. The rambler roses, lime, olive and pomegranate trees offer the ideal setting for breakfast. In winter, ciclamini blossom up here. My favorite however is the smaller terrace to the other side of the restaurant which offers a direct view of the nearby Colosseum.

The painter Andrea Aquilanti was inspired by the panorama view from the terrace. Based on photographs shot up here, he painted large canvases which now ornate the three conference rooms on the ground floor. They receive natural light and are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Last buy not least, Hotel Capo d'Africa offers a gym in the basement with Technogym equipment, which keeps the international traveler fit despite all the pizza and pasta in Rome.

Since 2002, Hotel Capo d'Africa dedicates itself each summer to jazz, because it is the official residence of the musicians playing at the Open-Air-Festival Jazz & Image in the nearby Villa Celimontana. Therefore, many famous (mostly jazz) musicians have already stayed at the hotel. The list includes Cassandra Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Sarah Jane, Morris, Dave Holland, Jacques Morelenbaum, Randy Brecker and Bill Frisell, to mention just a few.

Hotel Capo d'Africa, via Capo d'Africa 54, 00184 Roma, Italia.

The Rose-Wall made from used car tires by the Italian artist Paolo Canevari. The work greets hotel guests upon their arrival in the lobby. The list of contemporary Italian artists who contributed works to the hotel includes also Andrea Aquilanti, Pupino Samonà, Giancarlo Limoni, Gianni Dessì, Mariano Rossano and Giuseppe Salvatori. Photos © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

The Centrum Bar. The special of barkeeper Adolfo Bonucci are the "frozen", made from fresh fruit. The house drinks are the cocktail Caput Mundi, made from gin, apricot brandy, Aperol, grapefruit juice, grenadine, and the long drink Colosseo, made of rum, Amaretto di Saronno, Campari, Bitter-Lemon and Orangensaft. Foto © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

The hotel by night. Photos © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Rome.

View from the hotel penthouse toward the Colosseum. Photos © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

The studio suite with its private terrace. It is well-appreciated by the stars of the nearby jazz festival Villa Celimontana. Photo © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

View of a hotel room. Fotos © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

The breakfast room with the terrace in the background. Photos © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

The hotel gym with machines by Technogym. Foto © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

Dinner on the terrace. Photo © Hotel Capo d'Africa, Roma.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.